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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Business Travelers need to practice safe Wi-Fi

Business travelers are accustomed to being “hyper-connected” to the internet. Use of Wi-Fi in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places pose major security risks. However, the problem with this Wi-Fi access method is that it is not safe and secure as one may think it is.

There are countless tools and programs available on the internet that will allow the hacking of secure Wi-Fi networks through WAP, WEP or even man-in-the-middle attacks. Business travellers need to be aware that their Wi-Fi transmissions may not be secure.

If the access point doesn't require a password, it’s not secure. If it asks for a password through your browser simply to grant access, or it asks for a Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) password, it’s best to treat it as unsecured. You can be confident that a hotspot is secure only if it asks for the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2) password. WPA2 is the most secure. Recent advances in hacking techniques may leave WPA2 methods to be unsecured as well.

Also, insecure laptops, tablets and smart phones make it easy for a hacker to intercept information including passwords and credit or debit card numbers. Make sure the device is locked away, placed in the hotel safe, or secured with a security cable. A hacked laptop or smart phone can also create a security risk for the user’s workplace if it contains a password to the corporate network. Wi-Fi users should take the following steps to reduce these risks:
  • Turn the Wi-Fi on your laptop, tablet, and smart phone off when you aren’t using the network. Otherwise your Wi-Fi card will broadcast your Service Set Identifier (SSID) looking for all networks it was previously connected to. This enables hackers to figure out the key that unscrambles the network password.
  • Use a known service instead of Free Public Wi-Fi or similar risky locations.
  • Check the Wi-Fi security policies of your service provider and install the protections they offer to ensure it’s a known network and not an “man-in-the middle” hacker site pretending to be the legitimate one.
  • Pay attention to warnings that a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is not valid. Never accept an invalid certificate on a public wireless network. Log off and look for a trustworthy network.
  • Look for the padlock indicating an SSL connection.
  • Keep your firewall on. And keep your operating system updated.
  • Business users should use their Virtual Private Network (VPN). Encrypted VPN sessions offer the highest security for public wireless use.
  • Use the new WPA and WPA2 access moethods as they are much more resistant to attack.
  •  If your company does not supply a VPN connection, use an online service such as or to create a secure connection.
  • Use a different password for each account
  • When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
  • Remove all passwords and browsing history after using a shared computer. Never use the hotel lobby computer for anything requiring a password to access sensitive or important information.
  • Disable file-sharing on your laptop.
  • Only send important information over the internet if you are certain that the connection is secure. For browsing the web, make sure that the address in the address bar says “https://” rather than simply “http://”. The extra “s” means there is a “secure socket layer” between your computer and the website, meaning all information traveling over the network is encrypted. View the “lock icon” at the top or bottom of your browser window. You can click on this icon to display information about the website and help you verify that it’s not fraudulent.
  • If possible, set up your email client to allow you to send using secure sockets, also, as this will encrypt the email information and disable it from being sniffed by an intruder.
  • Put strong passwords on your wireless network. They should be more than eight characters in length, and contain both capital letters and at least one numeric character.
And corporate Information Technology (IT) managers should do the following to protect corporate data from hotspot dangers:
  • Establish and enforce strong authentication policies for devices trying to access corporate networks
  • Require employees to use a corporate VPN and encryption when making connections and exchanging data. Better still, set up computers so that devices automatically connect to the VPN and encrypt data after making sure that the computer or device hasn’t been lost or stolen.
  • Make sure all devices and software applications are configured properly and have the latest patches.
  • Ensure that corporate security policies prevent employees from transferring sensitive data to mobile devices or unauthorized computers.
  • Provide employees with broadcast air cards that require a service plan so they don’t have to use public hotspots for wireless connections.

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